Ideation is the process of generating ideas on one or more subjects in a creative, open environment. This is a powerful method at any stage of the development process. Ideation can be used to uncover new product concepts (without fear of judgment or ridicule!), as well as to thrash out ways of solving development issues or market challenges.
The aim is to let free-thinking reign and consider ideas which may seem unusual or even absurd, yet could possibly lead to exciting breakthroughs and even innovations.
Product teams can take advantage of ideation sessions to collaborate and stimulate their creativity away from their everyday workflow and environment.
But a little structure is necessary. Everyone present should be aware of what the ideation aims to achieve — specifically, the problems to be solved.
The target users and their pain points must be considered throughout.
Visual aids and games can really encourage greater creativity within ideation. Brainstorming exercises, linking words and concepts and even “Worst possible idea” can take some of the stress of having good ideas away from the team, opening the door for more uninhibited thought.
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During an ideation session, critical thinking is placed on hold until a later point.
Ideas aren’t picked apart in the moment: all suggestions are welcomed, no matter how out of the box they might appear.
Those inner critics that may hinder creativity are silenced for a brief period, and quantity becomes more important than quality. The more ideas you can gather during ideation sessions, the more potential solutions and innovations you have to play with.
This free-thinking approach can inspire product designers to suggest solutions even if they feel they’re unlikely to work.
And even if that does turn out to be true, simply discussing possibilities can spark creativity in others, unlocking new options that make a positive impact on a product’s development.
But ideation doesn’t have to just include designers. People from different teams may be involved, bringing their own skill sets, experiences, and creative abilities to the table. Welcoming diverse perspectives can lead to innovative thinking.
Valuable new collaborations and bonds may be formed during ideation sessions, which go on to generate meaningful results in the future.
When it really works, ideation can also cause departmental barriers to drop, creating a more cohesive company culture.
Ideation workshops are scheduled sessions focused on brainstorming new ideas, allowing everyone invited to embrace their creativity but in an organized way. They should be allocated a limited time (30 minutes, for example) and possibly take place away from the daily work environment.
People from outside the product design team should be invited if they have insights into the target users, such as staff from marketing, sales, or customer support departments.
The setting should be comfortable and allow participants to relax, without distractions. This could be in a dedicated meeting space, a quiet coffee shop, or a break out area.
Someone should be responsible for opening the ideation workshop with a brief statement which outlines the goal (such as ways to add gamification elements to a new project management platform, or how to respond to a competitor product being released).
It’s important to make everyone aware that there are no bad ideas during ideation workshops. Critical thinking can disrupt the flow, and ideas with value may be left unspoken.